Does Industry Create Solutions or Problems?

In order to satiate the hunger of a growing consumer population in the United States, farming turns to technology to produce high yields of food through industrial agriculture. As the name suggests, the beginning of this new agriculture style is linked to the industrial revolution.

This new, convenient method is an achievement for humanity, but experts explain that industrial agriculture contributes to numerous forms of environmental degradation and human health issues (2002).

Due to the various stakeholders including farmers, consumers, manufacturers, government, etc., the issue has a vague problem definition depending on perspective. For example, a consumer may love the low prices on goods, but rural communities might be devasted as their town deteriorates (2002).

Similarly, industrial agriculture is unique because one region might experience water contamination, another might be concerned with declining agriculture jobs, and another could be considering the environmental costs of transporting food.

Endless viewpoints exist.

Additionally, there is an undefined solution because of the multiple components to be addressed, such as water use, quality, and the economic effect.

For instance, one proposed solution is genetically engineering food in a lab, but there is concern for harmful GMOs. Solutions just create more problems in other arenas.

Not only are solutions unclear but there is no endpoint in sight because even if we implement sustainable practices, we will continue to evolve them as our world never ceases to progressively change.

We cannot overthrow our system and promptly experiment other methods momentarily because our lives depend on food to sustain our own bodies, making the effects irreversible.

As an example, when using soil for production, it takes anywhere from 20 to 1,000 years for a centimeter of soil to form (2002). Given all that is to be considered with industrial agriculture, there is an ambiguous time limit, making this wicked problem one of urgency.

The fragile state of natural resources is declining rapidly. We must find solutions quickly before the turmoil of hunger, economic instability and ecological hardship strikes.

This problem is significant to me personally because I have loved eating from a very early age. My favorite food used to be a juicy Italian beef with mozzarella cheese, but when a friend told me about the environmental impact, I immediately felt in my gut that eating conventional meat was no longer an option.

We all can act with our dollar, and therefore this subject is representative of the beginning of my direct involvement in practicing sustainability.

We will discuss wicked problems in more detail in a future post. Stay tuned!

In Soil We Trust,


Hendrickson, M. K., & James, H. S. (2005). The Ethics of Constrained Choice: How the Industrialization of Agriculture Impacts Farming and Farmer Behavior. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 18(3), 269–291. doi: 10.1007/s10806-005-0631-5

Horrigan, L., Lawrence, R. S., & Walker, P. (2002). How sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human health harms of industrial agriculture. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110(5), 445–456. doi: 10.1289/ehp.02110445


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